3D Animation Production Process: Essential Steps

In digital storytelling, 3D animation has become a powerful medium. It breathes life into ideas and narratives with its dynamic and immersive capabilities. Experts anticipate the market will expand from USD 19.32 billion in 2022 to USD 46.89 billion by 2030 due to the rising adoption of 3D animation in media and entertainment, healthcare and life sciences, and education and research sectors. Growth will also come from applying visual effects technology in games, mobile applications, and films.

As software advances, the animation industry continues to push the boundaries of creativity, offering audiences around the globe spellbinding experiences that were once the stuff of imagination. This article delves into the multifaceted world of 3D production, exploring its stages and nuances. 

The World of 3D Animation

3D animation breathes life into computer-generated objects, making them move through a three-dimensional space. Unlike traditional animation, 3D animation uses advanced computer graphics and software programs like Maya, Blender, and 3DS Max. This process begins with building 3D models, or “meshes,” rigged with a skeleton system for animation. The animation is a sequence of images, creating the illusion of motion in a virtual world.

2D and 3D Animation Differences

Traditional 2D animation uses drawings or paintings on transparent sheets. In contrast, 3D animation makes three-dimensional scenes on flat surfaces. This fundamental difference lets 3D animation craft more lifelike environments and characters. They have more depth and size. Even though it costs more and takes longer, 3D animation fits well for feature films. It’s perfect for movies with complex action or fantasy worlds, like “Toy Story” and “Frozen.”

Applications of 3D Animation

3D animation’s versatility extends beyond the animation industry into architecture, medicine, and marketing. In the entertainment sector, it enhances the emotional connection with characters. For gaming, it intensifies the action, providing a lifelike experience. Moreover, 3D animations command attention in marketing and presentations, boosting conversion rates. Its use in architectural modeling and medical imaging showcases its capability to create lifelike renderings and detailed demonstrations, proving indispensable in various industries.

3D Animation Production Process: Comprehensive Overview 

The journey of creating 3D animation is complex and fascinating. This process involves several stages, from the initial spark of an idea to the final output that audiences enjoy. Each stage in the production pipeline is critical in bringing animated worlds to life. 

3D Animation Pre-Production Process

Pre-production lays the groundwork for the entire project. It’s where ideas take shape and plans are set, ensuring the animation team is on the same page.


Every memorable piece of 3D animation starts with an idea. This stage is crucial as it sets the direction for the entire project. The design team creates innovative concepts that resonate with the audience, ensuring the foundation for a captivating story.


With a solid idea, the next step is to flesh out the story. It involves outlining the narrative arc, characters, and setting. It’s time-consuming but essential for a coherent and engaging final animation.

Animation Script

The animation script translates the story into a detailed blueprint for the production team. It includes character dialogues, scene descriptions, and camera angles. This script is the backbone of the animation process, guiding the subsequent stages of production.


Storyboarding visualizes the script through illustrations, providing a scene-by-scene animation breakdown. It’s a pivotal tool in the animation workflow, helping to plan camera movements, character interactions, and the overall pacing of the story.

3D Animation Production Process: Essential Steps 20
Image by Tutatamafilm on Shutterstock


Animatics bring storyboards to life through basic animations, setting the timing for each scene. This stage is invaluable for understanding the flow of the animation and making necessary adjustments before the more intensive production phase begins.

Concept Art

Concept art defines the visual style of the animation, from character designs to environments. This art sets the aesthetic tone and is a reference point for the production pipeline’s 3D modeling and texturing stages.

The pre-production phase is the base of the 3D animation process. It requires much planning and creativity from the animation studio’s team. This work makes sure the production phase runs smoothly.

3D Animation Production Process

The 3D animation production pipeline runs from the first idea to the final product. It shows the team effort at the animation studio. 

3D Modeling

3D modeling is the cornerstone of the production stage, where characters and environments transition from sketches to three-dimensional forms. This stage is pivotal in shaping the visual identity of the animation, crafting the digital sculptures that will populate the animated world.


Following modeling, texturing adds depth and realism. This process involves wrapping 2D images around 3D models and infusing them with colors, patterns, and material properties. Texturing breathes life into models, making them visually compelling.

Rigging and Skinning

Rigging and skinning equip the models with skeletons, enabling animators to manipulate their movements. This intricate process defines how characters move, interact, and express emotions, laying the groundwork for the animation phase.


The heart of the process of 3D animation is the animation stage. Here, keyframes define critical positions and movements, while tweening fills the gaps, creating fluid motion. This phase brings characters and elements to life, capturing the essence of the narrative.


Lighting is crucial in setting the mood and atmosphere. It accentuates textures, defines the time of day, and enhances the overall visual appeal. Skillful lighting can transform a scene, making it more immersive and believable.

Camera Techniques

Camera work in 3D animation mimics real-world cinematography, employing angles, pans, and zooms to guide the viewer’s perspective. This stage is about storytelling through the lens of creating dynamic and engaging visuals.


Rendering is the bridge to the final animation, transforming the meticulously crafted scenes into a series of images or frames. This time-consuming phase requires powerful computing resources, as it combines all the animation elements.

Special FX

Special FX introduces elements like explosions, weather effects, and magical spells, further enriching the visual narrative.

Music and Foley

Sound design and Foley add an auditory dimension to the animation, syncing sound effects and music with the visual elements. This layer of production heightens the emotional impact and realism of the animated piece.

Every phase is vital, from the first storyboards to the detailed rendering and post-production. This careful process helps the animation industry bring us engaging stories and visuals.

3D Animation Post-Production Process

The journey of 3D animation production culminates in the post-production phase. It is a critical stage where the final touches complete the project. This phase is where the collective efforts of the animation studio’s team come together to polish and refine the animation, ensuring that the final product meets the envisioned quality and narrative impact.


Compositing stands at the forefront of the post-production stage, involving layering various animation elements. This process integrates rendered images, visual effects, and other components to construct the final scenes. It’s a delicate balance that post-production artists master, ensuring that all elements seamlessly blend to create a cohesive visual narrative.


Despite the 3D nature of the animation, 2D visual effects (VFX) play a pivotal role in enhancing the overall visual experience. These effects, such as sparks, dust, and atmospheric elements, are often more efficiently achieved in two dimensions. The skillful integration of 2D VFX adds depth and realism, enriching the 3D animation without compromising quality.

Color Correction

Color correction is the final sweep over the animation, adjusting hues, saturation, and brightness to achieve visual harmony across all scenes. This step ensures the animation’s color palette consistency, aligning with the project’s artistic vision. It’s a crucial process that brings vibrancy and mood to the animation, making the visuals more compelling and immersive.

Final Output

The culmination of the post-production phase is the final output, where the polished animation turns into its deliverable format. This stage marks the completion of the 3D animation production process, producing a piece ready for distribution and viewing. The final output is a testament to the time-consuming efforts of the entire project team, from the initial concept in the pre-production phase to the detailed work in the production and post-production stages.

The animation post-production process is a testament to the meticulous and collaborative nature of 3D animation production. Each step, from compositing to the final output, is vital in shaping the animation into a final product that captivates audiences. Through this intricate process, the animation industry continues to deliver spellbinding stories and visuals, from feature films to animated movies that push the boundaries of computer-generated imagery and traditional animation techniques.

3D Animation Benefits

3D animation has revolutionized the industry, offering unparalleled benefits beyond traditional animation techniques. Its ability to create realistic environments, characters, and objects has made it a staple in feature films, animated movies, and digital content. The depth and realism provided by computer generated imagery (CGI) in 3D animation enhance storytelling, making narratives more immersive and engaging.

One of the key advantages of 3D animation is its flexibility in visual storytelling. The production pipeline allows for intricate visual effects, detailed environments, and lifelike characters that 2D animation cannot match. This depth of creativity enables animators to push the boundaries of imagination, bringing fantastical worlds to life in a tangible and real way.

Moreover, 3D animation offers significant benefits in terms of post-production flexibility. With the ability to digitally manipulate scenes, lighting, and camera angles, post-production artists can achieve the perfect shot without the constraints of physical sets or traditional cinematography. This flexibility streamlines the production process, making it less time-consuming and more cost-effective in the long run.

Picking the Ideal 3D Animation Partner

Choosing a reliable 3D animation studio is crucial for the success of your animation project. Opt for one with a skilled team and a strong animation pipeline. They should have a history of success. A good studio will turn your vision into high-quality 3D Animated Explainer Videos

Management team is another critical factor. The studio should have a cohesive team that communicates well, ensuring all members are on the same page throughout the production process. A well-coordinated team can efficiently navigate the complexities of the 3D animation process, from the pre-production phase to the final output, ensuring timely delivery and exceptional quality.

Additionally, the studio’s approach to the animation process, including its use of cutting-edge computer graphics and its ability to seamlessly integrate visual effects and motion capture, can significantly impact the final product. A studio that stays abreast of the latest technological advancements in 3D production will likely deliver a more innovative and visually stunning animation.

A Look at Successful Case Studies

These 3D production case studies testify to an animation studio’s prowess in transforming complex ideas into engaging visuals. Let’s delve into the case studies of Boostation, Sony, and CrowdSec, which stand as exemplary models of the 3D animation production process.


For Boostation, a mobile phone cache cleaner, we made a 3D explainer video. It compares your phone to a busy city. The animation clearly shows the app’s functions, using computer generated imagery to illustrate the idea.

Video for Boostation by Explain Ninja


Sony’s headphones ad is a tour de force in 3D animation production. A final product showcases the headphones’ superior noise-canceling features through computer graphics. This animation project demonstrates how traditional and modern 3D animation can blend to produce an ad that resonates with consumers and highlights the product’s innovative technology.


CrowdSec’s video shows how 3D animation can simplify a complex cybersecurity solution into a one-minute clip. The goal was to reach a broad audience effectively. The project needed good team management and a smooth production pipeline. The Explain Ninja made a final video that was both engaging and informative. It met CrowdSec’s aim to teach and grab the attention of possible clients.

Video for Crowdsec by Explain Ninja

Whether for feature films, mobile apps, or tech products, the animation workflow remains time-consuming yet rewarding, culminating in a final product that stands out for its visual effects and storytelling.


The benefits of 3D animation are many. It gives a realistic depth and creative freedom that traditional animation can’t. 3D animation draws in viewers with its realistic images and lively storytelling. Yet, a 3D animation project’s success depends on picking the proper studio. You need one with technical skills, creative vision, and good team management. The right partner can take 3D animation to great heights, enhancing your story and fascinating your audience.

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